Did you know that China has the third largest population of international students, right behind the US and the UK? Have you ever considered to take the challenge and study in this fast developing country?
For someone who grew up in an unglamorous town in Southern China, I often like to tell my colleagues and friends in Norway that I am from a small town with only 5 million people, and this statement usually brings amazement, surprise and wonder. China, is much more than just impressive numbers. Here’s my list of 8 reasons why you should take a year abroad in China.
1. Witness China’s fast development from the front seat
Without doubt, China’s development during the last 35 years is unprecedented. Having the opportunity to witness this from inside the country is indeed both fascinating and eye-opening. It is difficult not to mention some numbers when we are talking about the development of China, so here are a couple related to the staggering growth of urban environments:
At the end of 2017, 58.52% of the total Chinese population lived in urban areas, an increase from 17.92% in 1978. In 2010, the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), estimated that there are 15 megacities (cities with a population of more than 10 million people) in China.
While these figures can be easily found on the Internet, but putting these into perspective with your own eyes and being able to witness the speed of development from within is truly astonishing. Taking a year to live in the country, will allow you to gain much more valuable insights than a tourist.
2. Gain greater job opportunities
Norway and China are building more and more collaborations in various sectors, including energy, ocean, health, agriculture etc. Knowledge and experience of China is an increasingly valuable asset. Experience of China and the Chinese language, which is the third most popular language to learn in the world, could give you a great career boost. Learning Mandarin shows your dedication and perseverance toward an objective. It also shows your ability to confront yourself with the unknown and to learn from it, which is an ability valued by employers.
3. Low cost of living for students
In general, China is still very cheap, especially for a student. University campus is packed with canteens and cheap eateries, and they are of high quality too. A lunch at the university canteen costs around 15RMB (20KR), and a simple meal out is around 40RMB (50KR). There are also multiple local markets that have fresh produce. You can get enough ingredients to last you a week for 150RMB (190KR), and this gives you a good chance to learn how to cook authentic Chinese dishes with your friends.
Again, I will use some numbers from Shanghai to do the talking (1RMB=1.27NOK) (Source: https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/in/Shanghai):
- One way subway ticket from: 3RMB
- Taxis start from: 14RMB
- McMeal at McDonalds: 35RMB
- Water (1.5 liter bottle): 5RMB
4. Join a growing trend by becoming an international student
Did you know that China is already the fourth most popular destination for international tourists? It also has the third largest population of international students, right behind the US and the UK. Studying in China will give you the opportunity to meet students from all over the world and share your experience of being in this ancient yet modern country.
5. Discover the ancient civilization with a new perspective
China is full of contrasts and complexities, and modern and traditional ways co-exist harmoniously. Opposite the bustling Bund in Shanghai stand many iconic skyscrapers (including the world’s second tallest building, the Shanghai Tower), however this is also the same place where you can find locals practicing traditional Tai Chi in early mornings.
China is rapidly marching to become the world’s first cashless society, and two Apps: Alipay and Wechat, are used ubiquitously for this purpose. When I recently visited a traditional Buddhist temple in Hangzhou, I noticed that you even make donations electronically using a phone. Even an ancient religion is modernizing itself in China.
6. Develop a global mindset with a touch of the orient
You will meet people from all over the world if you choose to study in China, but don’t forget that you are in China and therefore the vast majority of people you meet will be Chinese. Although we now live in a globalized world and information can be shared instantly over the internet, there ARE significant differences between eastern and western ways of thinking and behaving. This may cause confusion, frustration or wonderment, but whatever feelings are brought up, such new experiences will help you develop a global mindset and also understand the world’s largest population.
7. Challenge yourself and learn Mandarin
Here comes the fun/scary part, as the official language of People’s Republic of China, Mandarin is notoriously difficult to learn. The bad news is, most Chinese people don’t speak English well enough to tell you where the toilet is, so you will need to know some basic Mandarin to get yourself around the city. But the good news is, Mandarin is not as hard as you think.
First off, Mandarin grammar is fairly easy to grasp at a beginner’s level (I repeat, at a beginner’s level). Secondly, behind the seemingly incomprehensible Chinese characters, there is a certain logic (well, most of the time). Last but not least, the university you are going to will almost certainly provide you with Chinese language/culture courses to help you to get the hang of the language.
Talking about language courses, did you know that as part of the UTFORSK project “Gateway to China”, you can sign up for a free crash course in Mandarin at NTNU from March to May, where you will learn some basics of the language to make sure that you will definitely be able to find those toilets when you are in China!
8. Sample the amazing Chinese food from different regions
This perhaps will be one of the most fun parts of your stay in China. Chinese food is not the same in China as Chinese food abroad. I had never heard of the dish “Chop Suey” before I left China, and eating a fortune cookie for the first time was as exotic as trying lutefisk.
Chinese cuisine is one of the most varied in the world. Each restaurant in China specializes food from one region, and the differences between all of them are huge. You can try spicy and savory food from provinces of Sichuan, Hunan or Jiangxi; you may also find the use of spices and herbs in Yunnan food unfamiliar given its proximity to Thailand and Myanmar; Halal food from the Chinese Muslim population offers famous dishes such Lamian (hand pulled noodles, 拉面), a national favourite.
Qiaoqiao Wang works at NTNU Energy as China Coordinator in both education and research fields. If you are interested in knowing more about the UTFORSK project Gateway to China and the Mandarin crash course, please take contact.